Waste: a Future Material Resource?
The Post Anthropocene materials that define our present evolve into resources that designers mine for the future. Plastics have become part of our geological landscape, while industrial waste streams have undergone a metamorphosis, giving rise to new materials. Enquiring the future potentials of these resources, Dutch Invertuals and research agency FranklinTill came together to showcase how these transformations give rise to new design opportunities.
Humanity has rapidly and dynamically reshaped the planet and brought extreme transformations to the Earth’s atmosphere, biodiversity, and climate. From harvesting precious materials to extracting resources from the depths of the Earth through drilling and mining, these reckless acts have not only altered the topography of the land but brought us to a new geological age where human activity is a dominant and radical influence on the climate and the environment – the Anthropocene era.
‘Geologically speaking, the fruits of the Anthropocene are yet to be witnessed. However, the acceleration of human industry has already made irreversible and permanent changes to the planet, to the point that artificial geological phenomena are being documented worldwide.’
Caroline Till, FranklinTill
Reflecting on humanity’s influence on the planet led Dutch Invertuals to initiate Mutant Matter: an inquiry into the potential of the materials for positive design applications. To deepen the research, we collaborated with design-futures studio FranklinTill. By brainstorming, conducting research, and sharing insights, we collaboratively synthesised the topic. We curated the design pieces and the overall exhibition design while FranklinTill hosted a series of panel discussions featuring material innovators with an emphasis on the evolving relationship with materials in the future.
Dutch Invertuals invited ten designers to showcase work on the material transformation of the Anthropocene. The journey started by delving into Earth transformations, images unraveled the impact of the Earth on new material utilization, craftsmanship, production, and the emergence of entirely new aesthetics — mixing unexpected materials, imperfect textures, and new kinds of composites that blend the human-made with the natural.
Convening ways to convey fresh value to this future resource, creators, artist Théophile Blandet speculated about mundane materials that might be non-existing in the future, such as plastic. Repositioning plastic as ivory, he challenged our perception of worth to it, provocatively questioning our sense of value assigned to it. Théophile transformed discarded plastic into a beautiful, intricate, textured design evocative of modern craftsmanship. Others made invisible materials tangible, fostered an intuitive connection with new materials and engineered its properties.
Shahar Liven Lithoplast project, envisioned a transformation of discarded plastics to become a precious commodity, a metamorphic rock that future civilizations will mine for. Shahar’s design resulted in textured beautiful vases, blending the raw, imperfect qualities of materials coming from the earth mixed with those of man-made substances.
‘Whilst historically we depended on earth’s natural materials, we are now reliant on human-made matter. This project aims to reconnect us to the natural origins and transformative journeys of our material resources’
Designer Xandra van der Eijk initiated experiments with innovative processes that could revolutionise current materials. Through her project ‘Future Remnants,’ she focused on humanity’s impact on the evolution of mineral formation. Employing household chemicals, she conducted a series of experiments, unveiling the intricate relationship between human activity and the transformation of Earth’s fundamental structure.
‘The project aims to convey that the surge in mineral diversity over the past fifty years can be attributed to human activity on the planet, demonstrating how we are altering the earth’s geology and raising questions about what will emerge from our actions over time.’
Xandra van der Eijk
Guiding the visitor through a journey into a lab of the future, where we extracted new kinds of materials. The exhibition revealed how human impact can create new possibilities, demonstrating that the influence we have on the planet is not solely negative. It encouraged the reader to contemplate the prospective waste we may one day mine and how the perception and value of materials could be transformed in the near future. By understanding our impact on the planet, we can start to envision how waste might potentially evolve into valuable new resources.
Edhv, Architects of Identity
Creative Industries Fund